Jemaine Clement, left, and Bret McKenzie work small-time gigs in the HBO comedy "Flight of the Conchords.
By Andrew Druckenbrod Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Flight of the Conchords" is the best music spoof since "This Is Spinal Tap."
The HBO show, which debuted in 2006, is an expansion of the comedy-and-guitar duo of Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, which bills itself as "formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo." In the series, they play fictionalized versions of themselves as musicians who have moved to New York City's Lower East Side to try to make it big. But the struggling artists are not the brightest bulbs and get into funny scrape after funny scrape.
'Flight of the Conchords'
When: 10 p.m. Sunday on HBO.
Starring: Bret McKenzie, Jemaine Clement.
Did I say it is very funny?
The humor is deliciously dry and self-deprecating -- especially when it's about their native country (in the show, the New Zealand consulate is on the third floor of a shabby building, below a massage parlor, and the band is always dealing with being from "Lord of the Rings" country). Yet the Kiwis are also lovable, especially Rhys Darby ("Yes Man"), who steals scenes as the tediously ineffectual manager Murray Hewitt. Kristen Schaal is hilarious as Meg, the slightly psychotic only fan of the band.
"Flight" is at its best when the Conchords break into song, which is presented in a couple of ways. When McKenzie and Clement write a song to play at a gig, it is pretty awful. But when they break out of context and sing to the viewer, the songs are often brilliant musically and lyrically.
They play off popular genres cleverly -- the opposite of the pedestrian stuff these wannabe poet-rockers could ever come up with. These songs take the form of music videos, but the precedent is more the time-stopping opera aria or Broadway musical song -- musical spaces for the character's inner feelings. One of the best from the first season came when the pair put on primitive cardboard boxes to shoot a video for their song about robots conquering humans. It looked so pathetic, so amateurish, but then we all of a sudden got a version of what the space-cadet duo imagined the video would look like. The result is a polished and cool video of their song "The Humans Are Dead" that is completely hilarious and pretty catchy.
The 10-episode second season of "Flight of the Conchords" starts at 10 tonight, with the band still dealing with the defection and success of its short-lived drummer, who writes the most crowd-pleasing music possible.
They fire Murray as their manager (prompting an operatic aria by Darby), and things get worse. Future episodes involve Jermaine becoming a gigolo to help pay the bills (the best line is when he calls a former girlfriend and says that since he is now a prostitute, could she pay him for the sex they had years ago?) and Bret forming his own gang after dissing big names in a unbelievably lame rap.
It's so funny and so well-done on so many levels, the Conchords definitely deserve to be discovered by a wide TV audience.
Classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at email@example.com.